Finding Extraordinary Holiday Fun in Denver: Timeless Traditions & Notable Newcomers

Whether you are looking for extraordinary holiday fun in Denver that is timeless and aged to perfection or totally fresh and out of the box, the Mile High City is a magical place for both! But with the long list of activities to try and fit in over the next couple months, all that fun can feel pretty overwhelming – even stressful. Here are some of my favorite treasured traditions carefully curated to help navigate, elevate and inspire. I am also super excited to share some of Denver’s newest holiday experiences coming on the scene for the first time this year.

TRIED AND TRUE FAVORITE DENVER HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

There’s nothing like the City of Denver during the holiday season! Many magical Denver holiday traditions are going on 30, 50, 60 years!  Yet, Denver’s annual holiday rituals never get old, only more spectacular and meaningful every year!  What are your favorite Denver traditions?  Here are some of mine:

1. Tea at the Brown

At the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, 321 17th Street, Denver, CO 80202. Reservations for Holiday Tea opened last June!

Top of the 3 tiered plate stand at the Brown Palace tea. Middle tier = tea sandwiches. Bottom tier = most delicious scones ever!

The Denver holiday tradition I look most forward to every year is having tea in the magnificent lobby of the Brown Palace.

Every year, I join my sisters, mom and dad under the larger-than-life chandelier in the Brown’s atrium for a holiday “planning” tea.  We come with a purpose: to set goals and aspirations for the new year and review how we fared on resolutions from the year past.  The warmth wraps me up like a soft blanket. With 3 generations present, the resolutions through the years (going on 18 now) tell a tale of perseverance, optimism, strength and struggle.

In my opinion there is nowhere more beautiful or inspiring in December than the Brown Palace Hotel.

What holiday traditions motivate you? Which ones do you look most forward to every year? Is Tea at the Brown Palace on your list?  Two more extraordinary fun winter traditions at the Brown Palace include: the 32nd Annual Champagne Cascade this Sunday November 24th and the 75th Annual Tea with a live Steer to welcome the Stock Show to town on January 24th, 2020.

For tea reservations call: (303) 297-3111 or book online. https://www.opentable.com/afternoon-tea-at-the-brown-palace

2. Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

At Cleo Parker Robinson Dance,119 Park Ave W, Denver, CO 80205, from December 7th to December 20th.

Many years back my daughter auditioned for the Children’s Ensemble of Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum.  We had no idea the world it would open up.  Whether you are performing on stage or watching from the audience, Granny is more than a holiday show. It is about being part of a family, a student of kindness, an ambassador of goodness, a recipient of love, world traditions and acceptance.  By just sitting in the audience, you elevate yourself to new ideas, appreciation and perspective.

To me, Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum is the most meaningful and miraculous holiday tradition in Denver.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance , (CPRD), brings this Denver treasure to the stage every holiday season – now going on it’s 28th year! Yet, each year CPRD surprises audiences with something new and different. Through dance, music and spoken word, Granny takes audiences on a cultural and spiritual journey highlighting holiday traditions around the world.

Photo Credit: Stan Obert

For tickets call (303)  295-1759 ext. 13 or buy them online.  You can also contact CPRD about having the Granny cast come to a school for a performance.

3. Denver’s Spectacular Light Displays

It would be hard to find another city with the beautiful holiday light displays Denver has.  If you are looking for extraordinary holiday fun in Denver, here are four tried and true beautiful light experiences you’ll want to go back to every year.

Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens

At the Botanic Gardens, York Street Location, 1007 York Street, Denver, CO 80206, from November 29, 2019 to January 3, 2020.

Hive, a modern bistro nestled enchantingly under the trees at the Monet Pool.

For over 3 decades, the Denver Botanic Gardens Blossoms of Light has lit up the holiday season in Denver.  Every year is different, exciting and totally exceeds expectations.  Be sure to buy the HeloSpex glasses to enhance the wonder!

Also a little note: the food at the Botanic Gardens is a cut above other museum cafeterias and cultural facilities in Denver.  You can duck into the cafe for dinner or just to warm up with a pastry and cup of hot chocolate. Produce harvested from Le Potager garden and the Gardens’ CSA at Chatfield Farms are incorporated into the menu whenever possible.

Get tickets online.

Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms

At Chatfield Farms,8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, CO 80128, from November 29 to December 22nd.

The Denver Botanic Gardens hosts not one but two phenomenal holiday light events every year. Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms offers a totally different experience than York Street.  You will not overlap if you do both!  Live reindeer viewing, pictures with Santa, crafts with Mrs. Claus and a hayride through the lights are some of the fun experiences included with you admission to Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms.  New highlights for 2019 are a giant snow globe, Elf Boulevard and Santa’s Cinema.

Get Tickets online.

Zoo Lights

At the Denver Zoo, 2900 E 23rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80205, from November 29th to December 30th.

Going on its 29th year, Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo dazzles Denverites of all ages with one of the largest holiday light displays in the city.  It sells out every year and advance tickets are a must.  More than two million lights transform the Denver zoo’s 80 acres into an enchanting land of wild animals and wondrous experiences to explore.  I love seeing all the eco-friendly updates through the years. The theme for 2019 is “Illuminated with Life.” 

Get tickets online.  Member pre-sale tickets are available for purchase now.

A Hudson Christmas

At Hudson Gardens, 6115 South Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, Colorado 80120, from November 29th until December 31st.

Wow does Hudson Gardens go all out for Christmas!  With tons of trails transformed into a winter wonderland this is a fun one to add to your list.  Santa Claus will be there and lots of merry people enjoying holiday music and spirited fun. Even though it is widely attended, the light display at Hudson Gardens is spread out over a broader acreage than some of the others – creating more personal space for a peaceful stroll.

Tickets are available at the Hudson Gardens Box Office or through Altitude Tickets.

4. The Colorado Ballet Nutcracker

At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, 1385 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80204, from November 30-December 29th

Artists of Colorado Ballet by Mike Watson

Denver is lucky to have one of the oldest, largest and most enchanting Nutcracker productions in the country! The Colorado Ballet is going on its 59th year of presenting its enchanting Nutcracker with 26 performances this season!  A few dates are already sold out!

Bring your family and friends to Colorado Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker this season to experience sheer joy, get into the holiday spirit and see fantastic dance.

With lavish costumes, magnificent dancing, extravagant sets and majestic live music by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra, Colorado Ballet’s Nutcracker offers one of the most exuberant holiday experiences of the season.  In addition to being the largest production of The Nutcracker in the state, the Colorado Ballet Nutcracker has been named the best-loved Nutcracker in the United States.

For tickets call the Colorado Ballet Box Office 303-837-8888 ext. 2 or click here for tickets.

5. Colorado Symphony’s All Star Holiday Line Up & Denver Brassfest

At Boettcher Concert Hall and in the Galleria of Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1000 14th Street, Denver, Colorado 80202, special events and programming throughout the month of December.

Photo Credit: Colorado Symphony Orchestra

I love going to Boettcher Hall at the holidays! Colorado Symphony always presents the most exciting holiday line up – totally over the top!  This year’s schedule is exceptionally special and certainly fits the category of extraordniary holiday fun in Denver.

Top of my list: Drums of the World on December 1st, John Denver Holiday Celebration with the Colorado Symphony on December 7th; Celtic Women: The Best of Christmas Tour on December 8th; Holiday Brass (not to be confused with Brassfest below) on December 22nd; and A Colorado Christmas running December 13 – 15th.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will make an appearance at A Colorado Christmas. So will Denver vocalist Devin DeSantis who will narrate the favorite tale, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

As if that isn’t enough, trumpet call please….Denver Brass puts on a FREE holiday Brassfest outside in the Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  This year’s Brassfest is December 14th. It’s the place TUBA be!

6. The Magic of Denver’s 16th Mall

From Tremont to Larimer, there’s ice skating (November 26th to February 16th), Denver’s unique and spirited Christkindl Market (November 22nd to December 23rd), and the Holiday Carousel at the Denver Pavilions (December 14th to January 2nd).  These activities only scratch the surface.

December in Denver means a joyous journey along the 16th Street Mall – the epicenter for extraordinary holiday fun in Denver!  All dressed up with a fancy sparkle, this downtown destination offers more activities than you can possibly pack into one night. Picking a few of my favorites, I like to start with a spin on the holiday carousel at the Denver Pavilions. The Carousel is open from December 14th to January 2nd. On December 27th all rides are free!

Moving down the mall, the historic Daniels & Fisher Tower, completed in 1910, always wears its holiday best.  This year, the Daniels & Fisher Tower, at 16th and Arapahoe, is home to Denver’s latest experimental art installation.  The permanent project projects the artwork of Denver artists on the side of the Daniels and Fisher Tower with content rotating monthly.  The Daniels & Fisher Tower is also home to the beloved  Clocktower Cabaret with a full line up of shows.

Other must dos right near Arapahoe and 16th Street are: experiencing authentic German Christmas traditions at Denver’s Christkindl Market, from November 22nd to December 23rd, and skating at Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park. from November 26th to December 24th.  Entry to the Skyline Park Skating Rink is free, but there is a charge for skate rental.

7. Hanukkah Menorah Lighting at the State Capitol

At 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203 on December 23rd, 7p.m.

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is a celebration of light, freedom and miracles. We are blessed to live in a state and city that values religious freedom as displayed by the public menorah lighting at the state capitol.

This year’s 6th Annual Hanukkah Menorah Lighting at the State Capitol will take place on December 23rd at 7 p.m. Featuring a public address by Governor Jared Polis and other elected officials, a meaningful program is planned for all.

Celebrating an evening of community unity, pride and light, you can expect to find food and festivities for all ages.  Some of the extraordinary holiday fun will include: a giant menorah, a live DJ, traditional sufganiot (Israeli doughnuts), a fire-show, chocolate gelt (coins) and glow lights!

8. Ice Castle Adventures

At 120 Buffalo Street Dillon, CO, 80435, opening soon.

I can thank instagram for introducing me to this fabulous find!  I ventured to Ice Castles in Dillon, Colorado for the first time last year, and I’m definitely going back!  About a 2 hour drive from Denver, Ice Castles is smack in the the heart of Summit County easily accessible from surrounding ski towns.  The pictures totally drew me in – best selfie spots!  Once there we had an amazing time sliding down ice chutes and ducking through cool carved tunnels.

9. The Historic Paramount Theatre Presents Extraordinary Holiday Fun in Denver

At 1621 Glenarm Pl, Denver, CO 80202, with special holiday programming now through Christmas.

I’ve shared before that I love the mantra, “collect moments not things.” So, it’s no surprise my favorite holiday gifts are show tickets. There are a lot of great theatres in Denver planning live holiday performances, but I chose to include The Paramount Theatre because of both its impressive holiday line and its magical presence off the sparkly 16th Street Mall.

Of particular note is the FACE Holiday Show on December 21stFace Vocal Band is an a cappella group from Colorado. They made their first national appearances as one of the eight original groups on NBC’s premiere season of “The Sing-Off” in 2009. Other great holiday shows at the Paramount:  A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage, December 22nd,; Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, December 13 & 14th; and An Irish Christmas, December 18th, and lots more!

10. The Ginormous Gingerbread House at the Broadmoor

At 1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

There is nothing like the Broadmoor Hotel for extraordinary holiday fun not far from Denver.  Along with the Broadmoor Holiday Show, the hotel has a 35 year old tradition of creating the most ginormous gingerbread house – an edible vintage replica of the resort itself.   Like no other, the Broadmoor’s gingerbread house stands over 13 feet tall and has 4 million calories! About a dozen pastry chefs help make the massive creation who spend months planning and over 200 hours baking and decorating!

If you go on a Saturday or Sunday, try to snag one of the coveted reservations for the Broadmoor’s one-of-a-kind holiday brunch.  The price is steep, but in my opinion, it is the best brunch not only in Colorado but the country.

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS FOR EXTRAORDINARY HOLIDAY FUN IN DENVER AND NEAR DENVER!

To stay true to the integrity of my blog, I try to keep it real and give only the inside scoop on people and places I know first hand.  However, there are lots of new holiday happenings in Denver I can’t wait to try this year for the first time.

Most importantly, I can’t wait to try these notable newcomers and replace stock photos with real life experiences.  You know how I feel about stock photos! Nevertheless, Real photos and real fun – here I come!  Follow me on instagram @denverilove as the season’s adventures unfold.

1. Christmas at Gaylord Rockies

At Gaylord of the Rockies, part of the Marriott International portfolio, 6700 N Gaylord Rockies, Aurora, CO 80119, from November 22nd to January 5th.

When it comes to extraordinary holiday fun, the new Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center near Denver International Airport is setting a new gold standard. For Christmas at Gaylord Rockies 2019, the resort has transformed into a holiday wonderland. The extravaganza boasts more than 2 million holiday lights and tons of events, big shows and activities.

Ice

The signature holiday experience ICE will feature Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer brought to life in this walk-through winter wonderland carved from more than two million pounds of colorful ice. Crafted by master artisans who travel across the globe from Harbin, China, ICE will showcase spectacular holiday scenes and two-story tall ice slides.

So much ice is sure to get a little chilly. Consequently,  complimentary parkas are provided for both children and adults to help keep you warm.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque Dreams Holidaze, is an electrifying and reimagined live family holiday spectacular.  This exclusive in-the-round theatrical experience features extravagant costumes, daring aerialists, talented singers and extraordinary dancers.  It’s a Broadway musical and new cirque adventure all in one.

The action packed 75-minute Christmas celebration will be performed on stage and in the air by toy soldiers, snowmen, penguins, reindeer, gingerbread and Santa.

Mistletoe Village

Mistletoe Village is the central hub for holiday hands on activities at the Gaylord.  Along with ICE!, Mistletoe Village is home to various attractions, shows, food, drink, shopping and Santa Claus.

Glacier Point

Outside on the west side of the resort with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, guests will have fun zooming around at Glacier Point on super slick Ice Bumper Cars, taking a yuletide glide on the outdoor Ice Skating rink, and Ice Tubing down one of four slides that will send you hurdling towards the Denver skyline.

2. Mile High Tree Creates Extraordinary Holiday Fun in Denver

At Sculpture Park at the Denver Performing Arts Complex,1848, 1736 Speer Blvd, Denver, CO 80204, from November 30th to January 31st.

Photo courtesy of VISIT DENVER

The giant immersive holiday tree in Denver’s Sculpture Park is an exciting new holiday attraction at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  Whether an experience on its own or as an outing before or after a show, Mile High Tree is sure to transform the holiday season in a thrilling new way.

What is Mile High Tree? It’s a 39 foot in diameter, cone shaped structure with dazzling lights, oversized holiday ornaments and nightly music shows every 30 minutes.

Moreover, this big tree is more than eye candy–it’s a full immersive experience inside and out. Mile High Tree can host up to 140 guests at a time inside the tree itself.

The Mile High Tree  is the largest installation of its kind in North America. The tree was created by ILMEX Illumination, a globally renowned decorative lighting production company in Spain. Madrid-based Brut Deluxe handled the lighting design using pixel-mapping technology to create the magic on display at Denver’s Performing Arts Complex. .

3. Camp Christmas

At Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St, Aurora, CO 80010, from November 21st to January 5th

Bryant Palmer, Chief Story Teller at Stanley Market and Founder of Oh Hey Creative, tells Santa what he wants for Christmas.

Where: Stanley Marketplace

Denver Center for Performing Arts sadly will not be presenting a Christmas Carol this year because that particular theater is under construction.  Friends of the Denver Center promise the theater will be ready for Christmas Carol 2020!  In its place, however, is an exciting and new immersive Christmas experience put on by the DCPA offsite at Stanley Marketplace called, Camp Christmas.

Camp Christmas is a giant 10,000 square foot, indoor, winter wonderland!

Camp Christmas is not for the faint of festivity.  This over-the-top indoor immersive installation turns the holiday spirit all the way up with mesmerizing displays of decorations that shift time and reality.  It’s not just pretty lights and mistletoe. When you go to Camp Christmas you experience Marie Antoinette commanding a Rococo sleigh and ancient Roman festivals all gussied up for Christmas.

By the way, the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities IS putting its annual production of A Christmas Carol – running for one month from November 22nd to December 22nd.

4. Westword’s Happy Hanukkah 8k -8 Crazy Nights

Anywhere – Anytime!

When it comes finding extraordinary holiday fun in Denver, it is sometimes a bit of a treasure hunt to identify fun happenings for Hanukkah! Westword has come up with an 8K virtual race to celebrate Hanukkah. You can complete 1 kilometer for each night of Hanukkah. Whether you run or walk them all at once, or do them 1 kilometer at a time, what great motivation this 8k can be! Even better, complete 1K on each day of Hanukkah. We can all thank Westword for the motivation to get off our bum and work off those delicious Hammonds candy canes and Mitchel Sweets!

WHAT IS A VIRTUAL RACE? A virtual race is a race that can be run or walked from any location around Denver you choose. You can run, jog, or walk on the road, trail or treadmill. You get to run your own race at your own pace.  After completion, a medal will be shipped directly to you.

5. Denver’s Holiday Lights & Sights Walking Tour

Meet at 1437 Bannock Street, Denver, Colorado 80202, multiple dates from November 29th to December 28th.

Keeping that active groove on…try Denver Walking Tours‘ new 90-minute Holiday Lights & Sights Tour. On tour, you can learn about Denver’s iconic buildings and treasured historic destinations all lit up for the holidays.  Some of the spots on tour include: Union Station, the Daniels and Fisher Tower, the Brown Palace, Larimer Square and the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  Tours start at 5:30 pm, and only 20 tickets will be sold each night.  Tickets are offered at $17.50 per guest.

6. Free Latke Demo and Tasting with Safta

At 350 S Dahlia St, Denver, CO 80246 on December 9th.

Last year, James Beard winning chef Elon Shaya came to Denver and opened his Israeli food restaurant Safta at the new Source Hotel.  Consequently, Denver has been a buzz about hummus, falafel and cauliflower ever since! There really isn’t a bad dish that comes out of Safta’s kitchen.

On December 9th, the Denver Jewish Community Center (JCC) will host a free latke demo and tasting with the culinary experts from Safta. Safta’s manager, Charlie Troup, Chef de Cuisine, Jessical Nowicki, and Pastry Chef, Liliana Meyers will share their latke making skills in the JCC lobby. The chefs will even give out their latke recipe for you to try at home. There is limited space for this event and registration is required.

7. Reunite with Olaf & Anna in Frozen II in the new Cherry Creek Theater

At Cherry Creek Shopping Center’s AMC Theater, 3000 East 1st Avenue, Denver CO 80206 November 22nd.

Who’s excited for Frozen II?  I AM!!!!  Starting this weekend you can see Frozen II at the renovated  AMC Theaters at Cherry Creek Shopping Center.  As you reunite with Olaf, Anna and Elsa, enjoy munching on some tasty eats from the theater’s new kitchen.   Subsequently, go downstairs and visit Santa’s Flight Academy.  When you visit the Flight Academy you also get to visit with Santa and receive a personalized Cadet Badge.

As if there wasn’t enough action at Cherry Creek Shopping Center, now through December 22nd there will be live holiday entertainment on Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 4pm.  If you are looking for extraordinary holiday fun in Denver, Cherry Creek Shopping Center really delivers.

Well, I’m going to stop there.  As you can see, there’s more extraordinary holiday fun in Denver than you can possibly fit into a couple short months.  However, its good to have choices! There is no better place to be at the holidays than Denver, Colorado! Wishing you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, friendship and adventure!

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